Artwrx Studio and Gallery, formerly known as Art Alchemy is a group of artists sharing studio space in downtown Courtenay. During the 10 years since its inception, the studio has undergone a number of changes to get where it is today. This idea of starting a collective in Courtenay was inspired by a visit to THE 3 AMIGAS studio in Nanaimo. Helen Utsal, Lucy Schappy and Jennifer Weber, the founding members, became focused on the idea of creating something similar. When they found the space on 10th Street with its high ceilings, big windows and amazing light, it was obvious they had found the ideal studio space. Artists Stacey Wright and Guillermo Mier were happy to join them and together they created Art Alchemy.

The concept was to have a place to make and show art and share creative thinking and overhead. Establishing the studio took a lot of time, hard work and money, and now it is a smoothly running endeavour. In the beginning there was more emphasis on having designated exhibition space and frequent shows, but time has proved that the space and energy is best used towards the process of painting and making art. Now the collective puts on one or two shows a year and concentrates on the joy of creation, inspiring members to grow as artists within a supportive haven of camaraderie and artistic expression that helps them experiment and push creative boundaries.

Throughout the past 10 years, artists have come and gone and there are presently nine in the group. All the current members joined looking for studio space to escape the distractions of home, and to paint in the company of other artists in what is otherwise a very solitary activity, but have gained so much more. They bounce new ideas off each other, are introduced to new materials and methods, share stories, and find the combination incredibly motivating. Helen says, “I feel so happy every time I come up those stairs, hearing the sounds of music, and people I care about going about their business, scraping paint, sharing a laugh, smells of fresh oil paint, fresh bread or soup; the sounds of life.”